Posted 4 p.m., Dec. 4, 2013

Editorial: One size fits some

Gen ed revisions fall short of covering all students

In an effort to increase the rate of certificate and degree completion at Laramie County Community College and to align with the University of Wyoming’s new general education requirement, the LCCC administration will make major changes to the gen ed requirements for the associate of applied science, associate of science and associate of arts degrees currently offered.

One of the college’s incentives to reconfigure its requirements has been a nationwide push for general education reform propelled by Complete College America, a nonprofit organization started in 2009 with the purpose of increasing the number of Americans with quality career certificates and college degrees.

Though LCCC’s new requirements are not yet set in stone, the current proposal made by the college’s general education committee requires 28–29 credit hours, compared to the previous 30–32 for an associate of science and 33 for an associate of arts.

Prior to the reconstruction, general education requirements for associate of arts degrees and associate of science degrees required the same courses but different credit hours for STEM and human culture categories, depending on which degree a student was pursuing.

In the current proposal, the degrees have been combined to require the same credit hours and courses.

Another possible renovation to the requirements is removing English 1020 as a required course. This would lower the communication requirement for an associate of arts or associate of science degree from nine credit hours to six.

A third change is the required addition of a three-credit-hour “Introduction to College Success” course replacing the one-credit-hour optional “Freshman Seminar.”

The purpose of this course is to give students the “ability to identify and evaluate sources and then apply them to a project” as well as the “ability to analyze a task, apply tools, implement a plan, and reflect on effectiveness” and the “ability to foster teamwork, consider the needs of stakeholders, and work towards a specific goal as a team,” as specified in a general education requirement matrix released by LCCC academic affairs.

A three-credit-hour elective course would be added to the Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics (STEM) requirement. In earlier drafts, a physical activity course was no longer required. Currently, a one-credit-hour physical activity course will be returned to the human culture requirement after some faculty voiced concerns about its removal. However, UW will no longer require a physical activity course.

With the exception of a few pre-chosen courses in the proposal, specific courses won’t be considered for each category until March.

We at Wingspan would like to give the administration an “A” for its effort to unburden students who are bogged down with unnecessary credit hours; however, incomplete faculty input and a withdrawal of what we see as an important class—English 1020—makes giving these new requirements a passing grade impossible for us to do.

On one hand, these changes would certainly speed up the time it takes for a student to earn a degree; however, we must ask, at what cost? We believe gaps in the requirement have been overlooked during this process that might lead to the new core failing to meet the needs of the college’s students.

One of these gaps has been the failure to fully pursue faculty input.

More faculty feed back needed

Initially, faculty members were asked for their feedback after each revision. At a forum Nov. 1, some faculty questioned the new general education requirements. Then, the questioning and subsequent input were used to revise the matrix such as the number of credit hours for a lab science course and the return of a required one-credit-hour physical activity course. However, some concerns with the new requirements were dismissed.

More than one faculty member was worried about the absence of a required foreign language course. “It is concerning that there is not a foreign language requirement because all students will be competing in this globalized world and economy,” one faculty member said in anonymous feedback following the Nov. 1 forum.

In other feedback, several faculty members felt English 1020 should remain a required course. “Students should be able to communicate effectively and clearly,” one said. “This is not news, but it must lead us to ask why the institution would reduce the communications requirements in its Gen Ed core, when doing so is counter to all research and in opposition to all anecdotal evidence referenced multiple times in multiple settings.” Another faculty member commented that “being able to write well is so important that students need a full year with an English instructor who is educated, trained and experienced in the teaching of writing.”

This input was acknowledged with a brief nod in a release by academic affairs, which stated, “the committee is proposing that a menu of courses be available to specify or for programs for students to choose from.”

On Nov. 20, the latest revisions at press time were released to LCCC instructors and suddenly included the return of a physical activity course and the clarification of the number of credit hours for a lab science.

Yes, this general education revision timeline process is complicated to follow. Part of this can be attributed to the lack of a formal feedback process. These latest revisions were scheduled to be presented to the Academic Standards Committee Dec. 3, without the opportunity for faculty to provide formal feedback.

We believe input from faculty is essential in creating requirements that meet student needs, and we agree with many of their concerns.

Wingspan recognizes the ability to communicate effectively through writing is a skill that most students will need throughout their lifetimes, regardless of their chosen career paths. We feel when it comes to teaching written communication effectively, one semester of English 1010 is insufficient. It seems unwise to remove English 1020 as a required course when it offers students such a valuable life skill.

If the purpose of removing English 1020 is to unburden students who are overloaded with courses and attempting to earn a degree, it’s odd to add a mandatory three-credit-hour “Introduction to College Success” course when it appears to us many of the skills could be integrated into other courses and be more specific to each student’s needs.

Equally confusing is the addition of a three-credit-hour elective to the STEM requirement, which tips the general education requirement for all students away from arts and humanities and toward science and technologies.

This simply isn’t beneficial for a student pursuing an associate of arts degree. One size does not fit all. The current revisions make sense for an associate of science degree, but why couldn’t English 1020 replace the STEM elective for the associate of arts degree?

Before LCCC makes these changes official, we ask they consider what is more important: A student finishes his degree quickly or finishes with knowledge that will propel him forward in his endeavors after LCCC.

Both are certainly attainable at once, but that requires careful examination of student needs.

We believe LCCC should ensure that during this process the quality of the students’ education isn’t being traded for quick degrees and higher completion rate percentages.

These revisions may receive a pass or fail in the future; however, currently we at Wingspan can only give it an incomplete.

 

 

September 2013 editorial

October 2013 editorial